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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

X. Memoir and Letter Writers

§ 24. Her Occasional Meditations

Lady Warwick’s Diary reaches from July, 1666, to April 1672; a further portion, extending to 1677, is now lost, though it existed about the close of the eighteenth century. The whole of it was accessible to Anthony Walker, who preached a long biographical sermon at her funeral at Felsted, and published it later under the title E[char] E[char]. The Virtuous Woman Found, her Loss Bewailed and Character Exemplified (1686). It was annotated by lady Warwick’s own domestic chaplain Thomas Woodroffe, who resided with her till the time of her death (1678). Besides this Diary, she composed, in the course of three days in February, 1671, a short autobiography, to which she subsequently made a few additions bringing down the memoir to 1674. She also left behind her a series of Occasional Meditations—the fruit of her solitary hours in the “Wilderness” at Leighs park, or in her chamber there or at Chelsea. “Meditation,” says Walker, “was her masterpiece”: and her “short returns to God,” as she calls her hours of pious thought, were to her the luminous points in her life. But, from an early date, she was also in the habit of expressing her thoughts in the form of apophthegms intended to have an effect upon others, and formulating what might be called witty religious sayings, with which she fell into the habit of winding up her discourse. They were something in the manner of the Pensées of Pascal and similar collections, chiefly by French writers, with none of which she can have been acquainted when she set about this style of composition; moreover, Miss Fell Smith has discovered that the example actually followed by lady Warwick was the Occasional Meditations of bishop Joseph Hall, of which a third edition appeared in 1633. Altogether, her epigrammatic thoughts number nearly two centuries (182), being unevenly distributed over the years in which they were set down (1663–78). “The true measure of loving God is loving him without measure” is one of them; another (scarcely original): “Why are we so fond of that life which begins with a cry and ends with a groan?” Many are suggested by the experiences—even the trivial incidents—of every day life: “upon feeding the poor at the gate”; “upon children playing,” and then quarrelling, “in the streets”; “upon my looking in a looking-glass in the morning to dress myself”; “upon my taking a great deal of pains to make a fire”; others arise out of events of deep personal interest, such as her husband’s death, and her own impending farewell to her loved country home. But all are characterised by the combination of spiritual depth and literary ingenuity which was her note.